A Moral Dilemma

Jonathan Franzen has a new book coming out, Purity. I know this because a) the internets are in a collective fury and b) an ARC of it is sitting on my desk.

I’ve never read any of Franzen’s work. And I’m not sure that I want to even though this lovely ARC is sitting here waiting for me to.

See, everything I’ve read about Franzen and the stuff that comes out of his mouth makes me think that he’s not a very nice man. I’m not a fan of the things that he says and am often offended by him. This week’s declaration that he had toyed with the idea of adopting an Iraqi orphan so he could study it and his assertion that he can’t do anything about his maleness do nothing to make me like him more.

But it did get me thinking.

Just because an author is a terrible human being, should that stop me from reading and even enjoying their work?

I have a habit of this actually. I can’t cheer for athletes who have proven themselves to be terrible human beings, either by cheating on their spouses, hitting their spouses or being a general d-bag. I’ve never read any work by Ernest Hemingway, again, because I think he was not a great person, even though many people tell me that his work is genius and beautiful and moving etc. I just can’t bring myself to read his work.

That said, I have read Machiavelli’s The Prince, despite the fact that it’s basically a manual on how to be a despicable person. I’ve certainly read a lot about Hitler and his cronies. I’m also kind of a fan of Woody Allen’s work despite that whole mess and I admit I watched 19 Kids and Counting out of a sick kind of curiosity until I really couldn’t stomach them anymore.

Obviously I’m a total hypocrite here, making my own rules. I would say that The Prince and anything Nazi-related are a part of my enjoyment of history. And I’m really working on the Woody Allen thing.

But where do we draw the line? Does a person’s work have anything to do with who they are as people?

I suspect that I would never buy a book of Franzen’s, even if I decide to read one of them. And that seems like a good compromise to me right now – if I’m not actively supporting the vile garbage that comes out of his mouth with my money, I’m not really contributing to his power am I?

What do you think? What are your own boundaries in this regard?